General capabilities

In the Western Australian Curriculum, the general capabilities encompass the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.

There are seven general capabilities:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) capability
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Personal and social capability
  • Ethical understanding
  • Intercultural understanding.

In the Western Australian Curriculum: Science, general capabilities are identified wherever they are developed or applied in content descriptions. They are also identified where they offer opportunities to add depth and richness to student learning through content elaborations. Icons indicate where general capabilities have been identified in Science content. Teachers may find further opportunities to incorporate explicit teaching of the capabilities depending on their choice of activities.


Students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society. Literacy involves students in listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.

Students develop literacy capability as they learn how to construct an understanding of how scientific knowledge is produced; to explore, analyse and communicate scientific information, concepts and ideas; and to plan, conduct and communicate investigations. Scientific texts that students are required to comprehend and compose include those that provide information, describe events and phenomena, recount experiments, present and evaluate data, give explanations and present opinions or claims. Language structures are used to link information and ideas, give explanations, formulate hypotheses and construct evidence-based arguments.

By learning the literacy of science, students understand that language varies according to context and they increase their ability to use language flexibly. Scientific vocabulary is often technical and includes specific terms for concepts and features of the world, as well as terms that encapsulate an entire process in a single word, such as 'photosynthesis'. Students learn to understand that much scientific information is presented in the form of diagrams, flow charts, tables and graphs.


Students become numerate as they develop the knowledge and skills to use mathematics confidently across all learning areas at school and in their lives more broadly. Numeracy involves students in recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully.

Many elements of numeracy are evident in the Science Curriculum, particularly in Science Inquiry Skills. These include practical measurement and the collection, representation and interpretation of data from investigations.

Students are introduced to measurement, first using informal units then formal units. Later they consider issues of uncertainty and reliability in measurement. As students progress, they collect both qualitative and quantitative data, which is analysed and represented in graphical forms. Students learn data analysis skills, including identifying trends and patterns from numerical data and graphs. In later years, numeracy demands include the statistical analysis of data, including issues relating to accuracy, and linear mathematical relationships to calculate and predict values.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability

Students develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school. ICT capability involves students in learning to make the most of the technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment.

Students develop ICT capability when they research science concepts and applications, investigate scientific phenomena, and communicate their scientific understandings. In particular, they employ their ICT capability to access information; collect, analyse and represent data; model and interpret concepts and relationships; and communicate science ideas, processes and information.

Digital technology can be used to represent scientific phenomena in ways that improve students' understanding of concepts, ideas and information. Digital aids such as animations and simulations provide opportunities to view phenomena and test predictions that cannot be investigated through practical experiments in the classroom and may enhance students' understanding and engagement with science.

Critical and creative thinking

Students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking are integral to activities that require students to think broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.

Students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, ideas and possibilities, and use them when seeking new pathways or solutions. In the Science learning area, critical and creative thinking are embedded in the skills of posing questions, making predictions, speculating, solving problems through investigation, making evidence-based decisions, and analysing and evaluating evidence. Students develop understandings of concepts through active inquiry that involves planning and selecting appropriate information, and evaluating sources of information to formulate conclusions.

Creative thinking enables the development of ideas that are new to the individual, and this is intrinsic to the development of scientific understanding. Scientific inquiry promotes critical and creative thinking by encouraging flexibility and open-mindedness as students speculate about their observations of the world. Students' conceptual understanding becomes more sophisticated as they actively acquire an increasingly scientific view of their world.

Personal and social capability

Students develop personal and social capability as they learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively. The personal and social capability involves students in a range of practices including recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for and understanding of others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, working effectively in teams and handling challenging situations constructively.

Students develop personal and social capability as they engage in science inquiry, learn how scientific knowledge informs and is applied in their daily lives, and explore how scientific debate provides a means of contributing to their communities. This includes developing skills in communication, initiative taking, goal setting, interacting with others and decision making, and the capacity to work independently and collaboratively.

The Science learning area enhances personal and social capability by expanding students' capacity to question, solve problems, explore and display curiosity. Students use their scientific knowledge to make informed choices about issues that impact their lives such as health and nutrition and environmental change, and consider the application of science to meet a range of personal and social needs.

Ethical understanding

Students develop ethical understanding as they identify and investigate the nature of ethical concepts, values, character traits and principles, and understand how reasoning can assist ethical judgment. Ethical understanding involves students in building a strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook that helps them to manage context, conflict and uncertainty, and to develop an awareness of the influence that their values and behaviour have on others.

Students develop the capacity to form and make ethical judgments in relation to experimental science, codes of practice, and the use of scientific information and science applications. They explore what integrity means in science, and explore and apply ethical guidelines in their investigations. They consider the implications of their investigations on others, the environment and living organisms.

They use scientific information to evaluate claims and to inform ethical decisions about a range of social, environmental and personal issues, for example, land use or the treatment of animals.

Intercultural understanding

Students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others. They come to understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture. The capability involves students in learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.

There are opportunities in the Science learning area to develop intercultural understanding. Students learn to appreciate the contribution that diverse cultural perspectives have made to the development, breadth and diversity of science knowledge and applications. Students become aware that the raising of some debates within culturally diverse groups requires cultural sensitivity. They recognise that increasingly scientists work in culturally diverse teams and engage with culturally diverse communities to address issues of international importance.